Big 12: Erwin Swiney
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Crouch overcomes struggling effort for Heisman-defining moment vs. Oklahoma
Date: Oct. 27, 2001
Place: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Score: Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 10
To all Nebraska fans, it's become a larger-than-life memory known simply as "Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass" -- one of the most unforgettable plays in school history.
But Crouch's heroic touchdown reception that helped beat Oklahoma in 2001 was more than just a great play.
It pushed the Cornhuskers into the No. 1 position in the BCS poll after the victory.
It also helped boost Crouch into the lead for the Heisman Trophy, an honor he claimed later in the season. His dramatic catch came in one of Crouch's worst statistical games ever.
The victory turned out to be the biggest in Frank Solich's coaching tenure with the Cornhuskers.
The Sooners carried a 20-game winning streak to the game and hadn't lost since Bob Stoops' first season when they brought their No. 1 team in the BCS poll into Memorial Stadium.
Oklahoma had built that streak on its defense and appeared ready to continue that during the game.
The game turned early when Oklahoma quarterback Jason White sustained a knee injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season -- save for a couple of plays later in the game.
Backup Nate Hybl then entered the game and engineered the game's first scoring drive. His 4-yard strike to tight end Trent Smith gave the Sooners an early 7-0 lead.
Nebraska matched that less than five minutes later on a 2-yard touchdown run by Dahrran Diedrick. Both teams traded field goals -- a 27-yarder by Nebraska's Josh Brown and a 20-yarder by Oklahoma's Tim Duncan with 15 seconds left in the half -- for a 10-10 halftime deadlock.
The Cornhuskers went ahead early in the third quarter after Erwin Swiney picked off Hybl on a pass that bounced off the facemask of receiver Antwone Savage. Thunder Collins scooted 39 yards on an end-around to the Oklahoma 25 on the next play, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Brown.
Hybl injured his left shoulder on the next Oklahoma possession when he was slammed to the turf by Nebraska linebacker Chris Kelsay, but returned after missing two plays. Amazingly, White returned to action for those plays despite his earlier injury.
After recovering from his injury, Hybl rallied the Sooners in the fourth quarter. But the drive stalled at the Nebraska 36. Stoops then decided against a long field goal in favor of a pooch punt that pinned the Cornhuskers at their own 5. Similar strategy had boosted Oklahoma to a victory over Texas earlier that season.
Crouch gained 19 yards to get the Cornhuskers out of the shadow of their end zone. But Oklahoma appeared to have gotten a defensive stop after Tommie Harris and Cory Heinecke produced a seven-yard loss on third down. Officials ruled Heinecke had grabbed Crouch's face mask on the play, giving the Cornhuskers a first down at the Nebraska 37.
On the next play, the Cornhuskers struck. Crouch handed the ball to Collins, who then pitched it to freshman Mike Stuntz, a backup quarterback on what appeared to be a reverse.
Stuntz instead fired a perfect spiral to a wide-open Crouch, who caught the ball at the Oklahoma 38 and easily jetted past Oklahoma 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive tackle Kory Klein and defensive back Derrick Strait to the end zone. The play covered 63 yards.
Interestingly, Oklahoma had tried almost the exact play earlier in the game. The Sooners' play failed when Hybl fell down.
It wasn't the longest play for Crouch, who earlier in the season had run 95 yards for a touchdown against Missouri. It wasn't even his first touchdown reception.
But it was the kind of play that resonated with Heisman voters and helped him become the first Nebraska quarterback to win the award.
They said it, part I: "This was one of those games where you want some excitement, so we thought we'd come out and try it. It worked," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch on his game-clinching touchdown reception.
They said it, part II: "In the end, losing is a strange feeling in our locker room (as far as) what to feel. We haven't experienced this in quite a while," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on the end of his team's 20-game winning streak.
They said it, part III: "No matter what happened, I knew we were going to get the job done. It wasn't finesse. It wasn't gaining 500 or 600 yards, but we got it done when we needed to," Crouch on Nebraska's big-play effort against the Sooners.
They said it, part IV: "I won't lie. I was a little bit nervous. I was just thrilled to death,'' Nebraska wide receiver Mike Stuntz, on his game-clinching TD pass to Crouch.
Factoids: The loss was the first time that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops ever lost against a top-10 opponent, snapping a winning streak of eight games ... The Sooners came into the game as the nation's No. 1 ranked team in the BCS standings and Nebraska was No. 2 ... The Nebraska upset ended a 20-game winning streak for the Sooners that dated to their 1999 Independence Bowl loss to Mississippi. It was the nation's longest winning streak at the time of the game ... Crouch rushed for 21 yards on 13 carries and completed 10-of-18 passes for 102 yards. His rushing total was a career low in a game where he started at quarterback ... On the three possessions before Crouch's game-clinching TD reception, the Cornhuskers had produced three, eight and nine yards ... Hybl completed 17-of-36 passes for 184 yards and an interception ... The victory extended Nebraska's home winning streak to 20 games, a streak that would eventually stretch to 26 games before the Cornhuskers lost in 2002 to Texas ...
The upshot: Nebraska and Oklahoma switched spots in the BCS poll the following week, with Nebraska at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2.
The potential for a rematch in the Big 12 title game never materialized as both teams lost the final game of the regular season to cost them a chance at their respective division titles. The Cornhuskers were blown out in a 62-36 loss at Colorado that snapped their 11-game winning streak to the start the season. And Oklahoma dropped a 16-13 home loss to Oklahoma State.
Even with the loss, Nebraska still qualified to play for the national championship in the Rose Bowl. But mistakes cost them three quick touchdowns as Miami cruised to an easy 37-14 victory. The two losses at the end of the season dropped the Cornhuskers (11-2) to No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll. The Cornhuskers haven't finished the season ranked as highly since then.
Despite the late struggles, Crouch still claimed the Heisman Trophy, winning the award by 62 points over Florida quarterback Rex Grossman. His touchdown reception against Oklahoma no doubt helped catapult him to the honor, becoming the first Big 12 quarterback to win the honor.
Stuntz never threw another touchdown pass for the Cornhuskers. He ended his career in 2005 as a defensive back.
Oklahoma finished the season with a gritty 10-3 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, limiting the Razorbacks to six first downs and 50 net yards as the Sooners wrapped up an 11-2 season. The Sooners ended the season ranked sixth in the final AP poll.
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